5: Everton 2 City 3 (25th January 1997)
The best City goal of all time? You’d be hard pressed to beat the sheer outrageousness of Chris Waddle lobbing Neville Southall from just inside his own half to place City firmly en route to achieving an almighty FA Cup shock over Premier League Everton. Two minutes earlier John Dreyer had put the Bantams in front, but when Waddle seized upon a poor pass and spotted Southall miles off his line, he produced a moment of astonishing quality for 2-0. Manager Chris Kamara claimed in his autobiography that he had warned Southall pre-match to stay on his line, which brought a laugh from the Welshman.
An Andy O’Brien own goal gave Everton hope, before loan signing Rob Steiner restored the two-goal cushion with a smart low finish. Although a Gary Speed late goal prompted some jitters, City held out for a stunning win which dominated the next day’s national headlines.
Chris Ruston: “Waddle’s goal, 6,000 away fans going absolutely barmy and getting to walk across the Goodison pitch to collect my confiscated air horn after the game!”
Andy Szabo: “Another fantastic win, and this time I was able to fully appreciated the shock of it. Waddle’s goal will live long in the memory, as will Steiner’s. A great day out and amazing atmosphere in the City stand.”
Damien Wilkinson: “A truly epic tie; approached the game with the lowest of expectations, three truly wondrous goals including THAT strike from Chrissy Waddle. The performance was magnificent and the score line probably flattered Everton.”
4: City 2 Notts County 0 (26th May 1996)
Division Two Play Off Final
It still remains the only time City have played at Wembley in our long history, and it was an uncharacteristically easy afternoon. Both in the stands and off the field, the Bantams dominated the occasion and won comfortably through goals by Des Hamilton and Mark Stallard.
Robert Flyde: “We won that day from the moment we woke up! From taking 30,000 to Wembley to Geoffrey Richmond selling merchandise at Leicester Forest services! Everything was destined for us to win.”
Andy Reynolds: “Although promotion was won and we got to see our beloved Bantams at Wembley, it was a tense but one sided affair which didn’t make for great viewing. It was still a memorable game and, with 30,000 City fans alongside me, it is one that will live on forever in my mind.
Darren Hargreaves: “A fantastic feeling to see City play and play well at Wembley. Fantastic atmosphere created by all our fans and then the drive back up the motorway, where nearly all the cars we passed had City scarves flying.”
Chris Jowitt: “I went with a mate who is a Man City fan. He turned to me after 10 minutes and said, ‘Only one winner here. Your lot are streets ahead.’ He is a good judge! I remember hugging a fat bloke who I did not know from Adam when we scored our second. After the game I walked straight out to avoid breaking down and crying in public.”
3: City 1 Liverpool 0 (14th May 2000)
By Luke Lockwood
This is probably as good as it has got for me watching Bradford – survival on the last day. The year before I had to listen to us getting promoted against Wolves on the radio.
My dad had a prior engagement and couldn’t come – he had written a book on Skipton that accompanied the Millennium walk, and as part of the agreement he had to take some of the first groups round. My next door neighbour, Uncle Jim (one of those that isn’t actually an uncle) took my dad’s ticket and – unintentionally rubbing salt into my dad’s wound – we drove past him and his tourists as we went made our way to Bradford.
The atmosphere that day was such a strange but brilliant experience, nervous excitement. At the start of the season every one had written us off and just a few games before we were almost accepting fate ourselves. With Liverpool needing a win to secure Champion’s League football we knew our task was huge but it was in our own hands and we defied the odds to be there, so we were quietly believing or at least hoping this was our day!
From the first whistle you could see the desire from those wearing claret and amber both in the stands and on the pitch. Every player in that side had given everything for the cause over the course of the season but that day they found the strength to do it once more. As Jamie Lawrence said in his interview with Width of a Post – this is where City went wrong, not keeping faith with the workmanlike squad that got us to the promised land.
Wether’s header, Owen’s miss and the Windass cheeky effort from half way. All the memories from that game can be seen so vividly if I just shut my eyes. I now understood how the fans felt at Molineux a season earlier, and this was so much better than listening to Radio Leeds.
My dad on the other hand – a late comer to the Bantams family – still has never had such an experience with City 12 years on. Whenever he brings up that I’ve not seen England win the World Cup, I can tell him he didn’t see City stay up! At least England only break our hearts every couple of years, not every year!
Damien Wilkinson: “What more can be said about this one – for a club brought up on dashed hopes and misplaced expectations, at the time this made us all feel that things may well turn out differently…”
2: Blackpool 0 City 3 (15th May 1996)
Division Two Play Off Semi Final 2nd Leg
By Andy Reynolds
Having lost the first leg at home by 2-0, few gave us hope – yet thousands of us made the journey across the Pennines to the west coast with little hope of progressing to Wembley. However, we simply tore Blackpool apart from first until the last minute, so much so that the scoreline could have been double and it wouldn’t have flattered us.
In Kammy style, it was an ‘unbelievable’ night; a tremendous game and one which lead to our first ever trip to Wembley, defying all odds on the night by outshining Sam Allardyce’s Blackpool.
We had a couple of scares towards the end, but it would have been an injustice had City not have gone through, such was their superb display. Euphoria beyond belief was the scenes at the final whistle and, to me, it ranks higher than the final itself.
James Hewitson: “We travelled with no hope. Afterwards the atmosphere was unlike anything I have ever seen supporting City, continuing on the motorway on the way back too as City fans saluted each other. Wembley was the match that actually determined things, but this felt better, and was the best match I have ever seen with City.”
George Flyde: “We seemed to be in a hopeless position after losing 2-0 at home in the first leg but myself, my two sons and a friend travelled hopefully. I remember going in a pub called The Lifeboat before the game. They were advertising trips to Wembley and this led to some good natured banter with the landlord. As it turned out we played really well and won 3-0. The last few minutes were really tense but we held out and all went on the pitch afterwards to mob the player and Chris Kamara. On the way back we stopped at a pub outside Preston – they were holding a quiz but had to abandon it due to the influx of deliriously happy City fans. What a night!
Matt Hardcastle: “The day turned from a day of no chance/maybe to the best ever game I’ve witnessed. I only now remember three things. 1. Shaun Murray hanging off the bars in the away end in a rather large “Beaver” coat as we all tumbled down the terrace when scoring. 2. Somehow when we were winning my mates arrived in the away end (from the home end) – god knows how they managed it, but they did! 3. And finally, some strange people in boiler suits running at us when we won. I’ve watched a lot of games in a lot of places but you will never ever beat that night – the pre-cursor for everything that came after – good and bad!”
Nick Beanland: “I only went to this game because I’d already bought my ticket but, from the moment Chris Kamara spent an age applauding the away support before the game, something special started to happen. Without this night I doubt very much we would have seen City in the Premier League.”
And so, the best Bradford City match of the last 50 years (as voted by Bradford City supporters of 2012) is…
1: Wolves 2 City 3 (9th May 1999)
No surprise of course, but then how can you ever better the feeling of watching your football team be promoted to the top flight for the first time in 77 years? The away end at Molineux that day was filled with nerves, excitement and hope, and the post-match celebrations seemed to go on for hours.
Wolves took an early lead – meaning it looked as though we would miss out on promotion – before Peter Beagrie, Lee Mills and Robbie Blake put us in such a strong position. It was always hard work with City, and after Beagrie missed a penalty and Paul Simpson pulled a goal back, the last 10 minutes were unbelievably tense. Simpson hit the post (good name for a website that!), and finally the referee ended the game. Bradford City were in the Premier League.
Josh Chapman: “Didn’t go to Molineux that afternoon but as a young boy to see all the scenes of joy and jubilation back home makes it stick in the memory.”
Andy Reynolds: “I couldn’t get a ticket to the match that day but that only dampened things slightly, as I joined the rest of Bradford, in one of the hundreds of packed pubs across the City and watched the game live via Sky. The game had everything and probably too much excitement. Football just doesn’t get any better for a Bantam, unless we get ourselves a Sheik who can transform us into Title material, getting into the Premiership was and will be our Holy Grail. It was a magnificent match but also a magnificent day/night and subsequently watching Sky Sports News with the City players celebrating and Stuart McCall falling off a car as he was plastered is another fond memory.”
Stuart Wright: “A very obvious choice maybe but it had some extra excitement for me, due to my university course I’d been living away in France for most of that season, I managed to see a few early season games and a couple over Christmas and then came back the night before the Oxford game at home which was such an anti-climax. A friend managed to get me a ticket for Wolves and although I can honestly say that I didn’t really enjoy the game until the final whistle.”
Chris Gardner: “Need I say more? No Albert Hindsight here, honest, but I knew when we won the penalty that Beagrie would miss, and the momentum would swing away from us again. I remember the near misses more, seeing the ball rebound off the post, and roll across Steve Bull’s path just out of reach. Then the minibus back, Centenary Square and dancing to Song 2 by Blur in Queens Hall, packed with drunken, worn out and overjoyed City fans. Happy times, that I wouldn’t have missed for the world – even if it did ultimately lead to our downfall!”
George Flyde: Culmination of a great season. We are Premier League. Should have strolled it at 3-1 up but Beags missed a penalty and they got a goal back. Wolves hit the post with a free kick late on, resulting in Paul Jewel saying: “It was always hitting the post”. Huge celebrations afterwards. Magic picture of Stuart McCall with arms raised aloft after the final whistle.”
Nick Beanland: “After the nearly season 11 years earlier I thought I would never see City reach the top division. To do it in such a dramatic fashion, in a game that meant almost as much to Wolves as it did to us, was sensational. Don’t tell my wife, but this might have been the best day of my life!”